Chinese smartphone maker ZTE’s sub-brand Nubia is taking the challenge to established brands with devices such as Nubia Z11 in the mid-range segment and the N1 in the budget segment. Priced at Rs11,999, the N1 is a big battery phone with the look and feel of a flagship. Its closest rivals are the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (4GB+64GB variant) which costs Rs12,999 and the Moto G4 Plus (3GB+32GB) priced at Rs 13,999.
Design: Premium finish, heavy build
The Nubia N1 has a unibody design, similar to its more expensive Z11. However, due to the gold coloured finish the metallic feel stands out more in it. The phone feels good in hands due to the lustreless finish on the back and the curved design at the edges. The navigation keys are backlit with red light underneath. The finger print sensor on back is fast and quite accurate. Though the N1 looks stylish, it feels a bit hefty. At 190 grams, it weighs a lot more than the Redmi Note 4 (165g).
Display: Big and bright
The N1 is a big screen phone with a bright looking 5.5-inch full-HD (1,920x1,080p) display. Text looks crisp and colours look vivid, which makes watching movies quite enjoyable. The display looks reflective yet looks legible under bright light. The display offers some handy colour customisation options allowing users to switch between more the vivid looking Glow option and slightly dull looking Soft option. Then there is the option to switch between the Cool white and tone and the slightly yellowish Warm tone. The big screen and bright colours makes the phone ideal for movie buffs.
Software: Feature packed UI
The smartphone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with a layer of Nubia UI over it. While it looks colourful and offers plenty of customisations, it can be very confusing for first time users. There is no app drawer and all apps are added on the home screen. The UI offers some unique swipe gestures which can make user’s life easier. Swiping along the edge of the screen opens all the background apps one by one. Swiping upwards from the lower edge of the screen splits the display into two parts allowing user to run two apps side by side, just like the multi-tasking button seen in Android Nougat phones. Swiping along both the edges during video playback can change the screen brightness.
Performance: Powerful enough for most tasks
Powered by MediaTek’s Helio P10 octa-core chip with 3GB RAM, the N1 had a smooth run with most apps and some games. Multi-tasking and switching between apps was also quite smooth. We didn’t notice heating issues on the back or spine during gaming and video playback. The phone offers 32GB of internal storage and can accommodate microSD cards of up to 256GB. Though dependable, the Helio P10 is not as powerful as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor which drives the Redmi Note 4. The N1 comes with a 5,000mAh battery which provides almost two days of backup on one charge.
Camera: Tends to overplay colours
The N1 comes with a 13-megapixel camera with phase detection auto focus, face detection, and the option to adjust aspect ratio without compromising on the image resolution. It offers multiple camera modes such as time lapse, pro, slow motion, star trail, multi exposure, and slow shutter, making it one of the most feature-rich camera at this price point. In daytime shots, it impresses with its sharpness. Light colours look a bit oversaturated but overall, the daytime shots look impressive enough for social media posts. Low-light photography is a weak point and photos look blurry and washed out.
The Nubia N1 is a feature packed smartphone which delivers on most of its promises too. It is worth a try for its big battery, funky UI, steady performance, good camera and premium looks. You can consider the Redmi Note 4 for its lighter form-factor, superior hardware and more internal storage (64GB). The Moto G4 Plus is the most user-friendly of the three due to its familiar stock Android interface and lighter form-factor. It weighs just 155g.